Public safety employees

A recent report from the RAND Corporation examines ways for policymakers and employers to improve workplace safety for public safety employees. The focus is on police officers and firefighters but EMS responders and correctional officers are also considered when data were available.
The goal of this study was to characterize the health and safety risks to public safety employees in such a way as to help identify the most promising areas for reform that would both protect employees and help alleviate the costs of disability and injury compensation.
Some findings to improve health and safety issues:
  • Better surveillance of injury data
  • Proper training
  • Increased information analysis and sharing
  • Strong safety messages from department leadership
  • Improvements to protective equipment

Occupational Safety and Health for Public Safety Employees: Assessing the Evidence and the Implications for Public Policy, Dec. 17, 2008
      Report (pdf, 157pp/792kB)
      Summary (pdf, 15pp/205kB)

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Health care in Congress

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released two reports on Dec. 18 relating to health care issues for Congress to consider. From the Director's blog:
The first document, Key Issues in Analyzing Major Health Insurance Proposals, focuses on large-scale proposals, provides extensive background information, and explains CBO’s analysis of numerous issues that could arise should the Congress seek to enact major changes in the health insurance system.

The second document, Budget Options, Volume I: Health Care, is much more specific and focused on discrete changes. It presents 115 discrete options, encompassing a broad array of issues related to the financing and delivery of health care. (Volume 2 of Budget Options, which will address policy options in other areas of the federal budget, will be issued in 2009.)

Key Issues in Analyzing Major Health Insurance Proposals (pdf, 196pp/2.2MB), Dec. 2008

Budget Options, Volume 1: Health Care (pdf, 236pp/2.6MB), Dec. 2008

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News - Net surf's up

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, "an independent opinion research group that studies attitudes toward the press, politics and public policy issues," published a report yesterday based on their most recent installment of the weekly News Interest Index examining news interest relating to the news media's coverage. The study found:
The internet, which emerged this year as a leading source for campaign news, has now surpassed all other media except television as a main source for national and international news.
They found 40% of the respondents to their questionaire say they get most of their news about national and international issues from the internet, "and more people say they rely mostly on the internet for news than cite newspapers (35%)." Television is cited as being the chief source of national and international news (70%).

Internet Overtakes Newspapers As News Source - Pew Research Center for the People & the Press News Interest Index
(December 2008, pdf, 7pp/44kB)


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Easy targets

States that supply crime guns at the highest rates have comparatively weak gun laws.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns

The Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition and its Trace Data Center published a report which analyzes state-by-state 2006 and 2007 trace data released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). According to the ATF:
Firearm tracing is the systematic tracking of firearms from manufacturer to purchaser for the purpose of aiding law enforcement officials in identifying suspects involved in criminal violations, establishing stolen status, and proving ownership.
Noting many states have enacted strong gun laws supplementing federal laws, the report's summary asks, "What is the relationship between a state’s gun regulations and the likelihood that it will be a source of guns recovered in out-of-state crimes?"
The key finding of this report is that states that supply crime guns at the highest rates have comparatively weak gun regulations. This association strongly suggests that gun traffickers favor these states as sources.
The Movement of Illegal Guns In America: The Link between Gun Laws and Interstate Trafficking (Dec 2008, pdf, 40pp/5.8MB)

Related material:

Regulating Guns in America - An Evaluation and Comparative Analysis of Federal, State and Selected Local Gun Laws
by Legal Community Against Violence (February 2008)

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Life in the bureaucratic zone

Veterans for America (VFA) is an advocacy and humanitarian organization whose primary mission is:
to ensure that our country meets the needs of servicemembers and veterans who have served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)...[and] the needs of those who are currently serving in the military since the majority of those who have seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan are still in the military and under the care of the Department of Defense.
VFA has recently published a survival guide for veterans, which the New York Times descibes as "a 599-page guide to veterans' issues, from educational help to vocational rehabilitation, from housing to citizenship." VFA makes the guide available as a free pdf download, allowing for updating and additional chapters as needed.

American Veterans and Servicemembers Survival Guide. How To Cut Through The Bureaucracy And Get What You Need - And Are Entitled To. (pdf, 2.6MB/599pp).

Also available as individual chapter downloads.

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"Eds & meds"

Universities and hospitals ("eds" and "meds") are "potential drivers of economic development in metropolitan areas," according to a recent report from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. The report examines four impacts of expanding eds and meds that would raise earnings of metropolitan residents:
  • Expanding eds and meds brings in new income to a metropolitan area
  • Expanding eds raises metropolitan residents’ earnings by improving their skills
  • Expanding university research spurs metropolitan economic development
  • Expanding meds is likely to encourage other employers in a metropolitan area to pay higher wages
Included in the report are two tables listing the top 30 metropolitan areas for higher education and for medical care.

The Local Economic Impact of "Eds & Meds": How Policies to Expand Universities and Hospitals Affect Metropolitan Economies (pdf, 32pp/1.14MB), Dec. 10, 2008

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401(k)s now

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Investment Company Institute (ICI) have collaborated since 1996 in developing a comprehensive database on 401(k) participants, including information on demographic, contribution, asset allocation, and loan and withdrawal activity. EBRI's website on the Defined Contribution and Participant Behavior Research Program lists its research in this area. Using this data, EBRI recently presented testimony before the House Education and Labor Committee on The Impact of the Financial Crisis on Workers’ Retirement Security (pdf, 26pp/232kB), Oct. 7, 2008. Graphic data on 401(k) balances and changes due to market volatility are provided to Nov. 26, 2008.

According to its website, ICI is the national association of U.S. investment companies, and "seeks to encourage adherence to high ethical standards, promote public understanding, and otherwise advance the interests of funds, their shareholders, directors, and advisers."



Recent CRS reports

Recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports from Open CRS:

Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA): Selected Regulatory and Legislative Issues, RL34201 (pdf, 27pp/176kB), Nov. 26, 2008

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), first enacted in 1974, is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which delegates primary enforcement of the drinking water program to states and tribes through the Public Water System Supervision (PWSS) program. In the 110th Congress, SDWA issues include: drinking water contaminants; perchlorate and pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in drinking water; drinking water infrastructure needs and funding; small systems (serving 3,300 persons or fewer) issues; and underground injection control (UIC) and geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Emergency Communications: The Future of 911, RL34755 (pdf, 36pp/200kB), Nov. 21, 2008

The current 911 infrastructure is based on analog technology that does not support newer, digital technologies, resulting in dropped or misdirected calls. According to CRS, modernizing 911 will require new technologies, collectively referred to as Next Generation 911, that should incorporate Internet Protocol (IP) networks. The most recent legislation passed by Congress, the NET 911 Improvement Act of 2008, P.L. 110-283 (pdf, 8pp), requires a national plan for migrating to an IP-enabled emergency network.

Iceland's Financial Crisis, RS22988 (pdf, 6pp/72kB), Nov. 20, 2008

Among CRS's conclusions:
The failure of Iceland’s banks raises questions about bank supervision and crisis management for governments in Europe and the United States. This incident raises questions about how national governments should address the issue of supervising foreign financial firms that are operating within their borders and how to protect their depositors when a foreign-owned firm may attempt to withdraw deposits from one market in order to offset losses in another.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): Votes and Legislative Actions, 95th Congress through 110th Congress, RL32838 (pdf, 37pp/204kB), Nov. 19, 2008

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) comprises 19 million acres that contain undeveloped oil and gas sources as well as a wide range of plants and animals. This report summarizes Congress's attempts to address issues of energy development and preservation in the Refuge, particularly from the 108th through 110th Congresses.

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One bill at a time

MAPLight.org and the California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC) filed a lawsuit (pdf, 5.3MB/71pp) December 3 against the Office of Legislative Counsel of California for violating California's open records law (pdf, 67pp) by denying access to California's computer database for tracking thousands of votes and pieces of legislation. Currently the Office of Legislative Counsel provides California legislative information on the state's official website. MAPLight.org and CFAC assert:
Although the public currently can access this info one bill at a time through the state’s official website, that does not allow computer-assisted analysis of the data...

What MAPLight.org is requesting is copies of the database records used to create the website. These database records would allow searching for how a member votes, analysis of trends in voting and in bill topics, analysis of patterns of campaign contributions and votes to track special-interest influence, and many more valuable civic uses.
Reported in a Sacramento Bee article:
Legislative Counsel Diane Boyer-Vine refused the request, asserting in a letter to MAPLight.org in July that the California Public Records Act "does not require disclosure of the database itself."
Press release by MAPLight.org and CFAC.

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2009 jazz masters

In the spirit of the holidays, FR is taking a brief holiday from its usual beat to bring you something offbeat: the 2009 Jazz Masters named by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The NEA Jazz Masters program is the nation's highest honor in jazz, a lifetime achievement award. The 2009 Jazz Masters are George Benson, Jimmy Cobb, Lee Konitz, Toots Thielemans, Snooky Young, and Rudy Van Gelder.

The 2009 publication profiles the 2009 Jazz Masters with brief biographies and selected discographies. The companion report does the same for Jazz Masters from 1982 to 2008. Both include a brief history of the program.

NEA Jazz Masters [2009] (pdf, 24pp/1.4MB), Oct. 2008

NEA Jazz Masters [1982-2008] (pdf, 119pp/2.7MB), Jan. 2008

Jazz Masters 1982-2009 (Listing, alphabetical/by year)